When Darkness Falls

Don’t forget in the darkness what God promised you in the light. ~Mark Jones

A senseless act, by definition, defies logic and rationale. Whatever the Las Vegas killer’s motivation may have been, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure he saw his actions as justifiable. But what spurned him to do this horrific thing really doesn’t matter to me. The weapons he chose to use, the method he used to execute his plan, none of that matter to me. I simply don’t care.

I don’t care if he was doing it name of Allah or another god. I don’t care if he did what he did because he was a pissed off Republican or a dissatisfied Democrat. I don’t care if he did it because he was upset about statues, the NFL, the President, the left, the right, the middle, or that his girlfriend broke up with him. Whatever he thought was justification enough for him to unload hell on earth upon unsuspecting people doesn’t matter a hill of beans to me.

His actions don’t prove that God doesn’t love us or that the Lord has abandoned us. His actions prove nothing. His actions only hurt and terrorize a nation and a world already on edge. His actions only serve as a reminder that evil does exist. Evil doesn’t need a cause to rear its nasty head. Evil is self-deceiving by nature and all-consuming. It sucks out life and light wherever it finds a home. Evil kills, murders, maims, injures, wounds and destroys. Evil does what it does because it’s evil.

Evil lies. Like there is any reason that anyone could ever give you that would make you say “Oh yeah! I get it now.” There’s not. We’ve been through enough of these types of events to know better. And no, it won’t be the last. Sadly, it probably won’t even be the worst. One day evil will up the ante. It always does.

Let’s not allow this to become another platform for our individual views on weapons,  politics, or whatever. Let’s focus on the people whose lives were extinguished, the hundreds that were wounded, and the thousands that were violated. Let’s celebrate them. Let’s help them. Let’ love them.

We live in a world of differing views and perspectives. We don’t agree. We won’t agree. Democracy is not about agreement. Democracy is about acceptance in light of our disagreements. We’re different. Let’s get over that already. 

Let’s not make this about politics, gun control, or even terrorism. To do that would be giving the gunman’s wicked rationale a leg to stand on. He doesn’t deserve that. At best, he deserves our prayers and forgiveness. But I’m not sure we’re there yet. I know I’m not. I doubt his family is. They need our prayers. Imagine what they must be thinking and going through. Imagine if your loved one did this.

star-clusters-67616_1920What then?

For starters, if you are able, be a doer. Help those affected by the tragic events in Las Vegas by lending a helping hand, a listening ear, or by donating blood, or giving them a hug. Let those who lived through it know that you love them, regardless of who they are, what they believe, or even the music they listen to.

Another action that you can take regardless of where you stand in proximity to the shooting is prayer. Pray with them and for them. Pray early. Pray often. Pray now. This is going to be hard to get over. To date, there’s been no larger act of violence than this in America,  9/11 respectfully aside. Prayer is a powerful weapon. Prayer is more than just an expression of good thoughts and kind words. Thoughts and words are limited. Prayer is not.

Be there. Be present. Be in the moment. Talk. Listen. Lend a shoulder to cry on and arms to wrap around those who need comfort.

Whatever you do, don’t let this become another platform to divide us. That’s what evil wants to do. Kill our joy. Kill our hope. Kill us.  Instead, let your light shine.

Pray. Do. Be.

God is good all the time, all the time God is good.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5 (ESV)

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Praying for Las Vegas. Praying for America.

3 Things Pastor Mark Jones Taught Me

Pastor Mark Jones encouraged me early and often in my pursuit of writing for the Kingdom. He avidly read my blog and shared his thoughts on different posts I published, frequently offering an encouraging word or helpful insight. In this moment, I pray that the Lord would give me the words to share about my friend and brother in Christ, Mark Walton Jones.

Oceans of emotions flood my eyes, showered with waves of joy. I am ripped-up, torn in two while in wondrous awe all at the same time. Reflecting on the events of these past few days, I am deeply moved by the incredible men God has placed in my life. Meeting Gordon MacDonald and Mark Jones in the same lifetime is indeed one of the sweetest privileges any man could know. My heart leaps with joy at the mental picture of Gordon seeing Mark enter Heaven’s Pearly Gate, welcoming Mark to his eternal home.

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Gordon MacDonald playing the saw. July 27, 2012.

Walking the halls of the church, I would often hear Mark shout “Hey Handsome!”. I’d turn to see Mark’s big audacious smile radiating the joy of Jesus my way. I would smile back and reply “Hey there my Beautiful BFAM!” (Brother from Another Mother). We’d both crack up, exchange a wave as we headed in separate directions or run over and give each other a big bear hug. From the time we first met it felt like Mark and I had known each other forever. I think that’s what it meant to meet Mark Jones; he never met a stranger.

In the short season I knew him, ministered with him at Trinity Bible Church, and served under his leadership as part of Trinity’s Worship Team, I learned a ton from this faithful man of God. Some of the lessons he taught me, he also taught others. There are many to choose from but I’ve landed on 3 that I hope and pray will be a blessing to you as they have been to me.

Guard your Witness

We’ve likely all heard the saying that we may be the only Bible someone reads. Mark encouraged me to guard my witness carefully to avoid distracting anyone from Jesus. “You’re either pointing people to Jesus or pushing them away,” he’d say. Choose wisely. Think before you speak and recognize every thought does not need to be spoken. Once, Mark and I spent 30 consecutive days praying for each other asking God to guide our words. We both knew words to be powerful, sharp tools. What we say can either lift people up or devastate them. Let your words point people toward the Gospel. Don’t destroy your testimony or blemish your witness by speaking careless words with unintended consequences. Guard your witness so that you may be a comfort and a light to others. This is a principle Mark faithfully demonstrated.

Worship is a Lifestyle

As anyone who knew Mark can attest, he loved and lived for worship. He sought the Lord out daily, seeking to be in His presence. Mark believed in the importance of matching your walk with your talk. Boasting in Christ can be meaningless if we forget to imitate our Lord and Savior in all that we say and do. Before you do something ask, “Will this glorify God? If not, do you need to be doing it?” For Mark, worship was not something you only did on Sunday. For Mark worship here on Earth was a lifestyle, as it undoubtedly continues to be in Heaven.

Pray Early, Often, and Now

Mark prayed before his feet hit the floor in the morning, before he went to bed at night, and every moment in between. Mark taught me to pray with people the very moment they asked or shared a need. For Mark, there was no time like the present. He prayed with them right then and there. Yes, he would lift them up in prayer at other times as well, but Mark believed in the importance of praying with people immediately. I think this is something he learned from Brother Gordon MacDonald, who would often drop into prayer during conversations you were having with him.  Since we first met in December 2010, Mark and I prayed together a lot and for a long laundry list of different concerns. We prayed for others; we prayed for each other.

Earlier this Spring when Mark asked me to join him in praying about a decision he was prayerfully contemplating, I was honored to walk alongside him. At the time, neither of us envisioned that the Lord would be calling Mark home so suddenly. As I visited with him in his rehab room the week before he died, we prayed together. As we prayed, I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d have the privilege of praying with my brother here on this side of Heaven or I would have prayed longer. After his fall, Mark committed to never again taking a step for granted. We prayed that God would heal him and make him able to walk again. And He has.

God calling Mark home so suddenly was simply not something anyone considered being part of the equation. Not now. But God had other plans. And while I can’t fathom beginning to understand it, I know that Mark would be the first to remind us of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

“God is good all the time and all the time God is good.”-Mark W. Jones

God remains worthy of our trust. As believers, we know that God is for us not against us.

 

Mark Walton Jones

Pastor Mark Jones

 

Mark loved people. They fueled him. They energized him. This past month, I know how much all the visits, calls, texts and prayers meant to him. He told me so as I sat by his bedside. “Some folks like to catch up on their reading when they’re in the hospital,” Mark shared, “but that’s not me. I thrive on being around people.” He was so incredibly upbeat, encouraged, and excited about the outpouring of love showered on him, Rebecca and his family.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

I had no idea Mark would make it to the finish line so far ahead of us. Until our big reunion in the sky, we will miss you dearly. Well done my Beautiful BFAM. Well done.